Chapter 23: destruction of the ram Arkansas.--capture of Galveston.--capture of the Harriet Lane.--sinking of the Hatteras.--attack on Baton Rouge.--Miscellaneous engagements of the gun-boats.
- Remarks on letting the Mississippi River below Vicksburg fall into the hands of the Confederates again. -- destruction of the ram Arkansas. -- capture of Galveston by a portion of Farragut's Squadron. -- recapture of Galveston by the Confederates. -- destruction of the Westfield. -- Commander Renshaw and a portion of his crew blown up. -- the steamer Harriet Lane captured by the Confederates. -- the blockade abandoned. -- appearance of the Alabama. -- sinking of the Hatteras by the Alabama. -- hardships endured by officers and crew of the Hatteras -- attempt to pass Port Hudson by Farragut's Squadron and loss of the frigate Mississippi. -- casualties. -- the effect of the return of Farragut's fleet before Vicksburg. -- capture of Baton Rouge, La. -- effect of the destruction of the ram Arkansas. -- Confederates attack Baton Rouge and are repulsed. -- honor to whom honor is due. -- attack on Donaldsonville. -- fight with the Confederate iron-clad cotton. -- capture of the A. B. Seger. -- ascending the Louisiana bayous. -- Miscellaneous engagements of the gun-boats. -- death of Commander Buchanan. -- vessels and officers of the West Gulf Squadron, January 1, 1863.
Up to the time of the escapade of the ram Arkansas, a general idea has been given of the performances of Farragut's fleet. After leaving Rear-Admiral Davis and running the Vicksburg batteries, he proceeded down the river to New Orleans with the Hartford, Richmond, Brooklyn, Pinola and Kennebec. The old mortar fleet, which under Commander Porter had done such good service at Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and at Vicksburg, had been divided up and withdrawn from the upper Mississippi, and the river from Baton Rouge to Vicksburg was now virtually left to the Confederates, who deliberately went to work and lined the banks with guns, making, besides Vicksburg, another Gibraltar at Port Hudson, which caused much trouble to the Union commanders before they were able to retake it. The Mississippi had been so easily opened, all the way from New Orleans to Vicksburg, that it ought never to have been closed again, even if it required the whole power of the Federal government to keep it open. The importance of this river to the Confederates was too great for them not to strain every nerve to keep possession of its banks; but the reader will naturally wonder that the Federal government should have allowed such important positions to fall back into their hands. It is certain that great ignorance or indifference was shown with regard to the importance of Vicksburg and the part it was to play in the war, and this ignorance or indifference, or whatever it may be called, cost the United States many millions of dollars to remedy. The several historians of the war have managed to glide by this subject with only a passing notice, but it is worthy of careful investigation. The great importance of the Mississippi to both parties had been manifest from the beginning, but its importance was much greater to the Confederates than to the Federals. It washed the shores of ten different states, northern and southern, and received the waters of fifty or sixty navigable rivers. It was the great connecting link between the two sections, and was in fact the backbone of the rebellion. We had provided the Confederates with guns enough at Norfolk to fortify it in all its length, and they had not failed to make the most of all their means of defence. The possession of the great river was equally sought by both parties; for it was evident from the first that whichever side obtained control of it and its tributaries would possess an immense advantage. If the Confederates lost it they would be cut off from their great source of supplies and be compelled to obtain everything from  Europe through blockade runners. This consideration alone would have been sufficient to account for all the blood and treasure which was expended in its defence, and the strength of the fortifications upon its banks show that the importance of the Mississippi had been well estimated by the Confederate generals at the very beginning of the war. All of the strongholds to the north of Vicksburg had fallen into the hands of the Federals as early as the spring of 1862, and they were now brought face to face with the great Gibraltar of the West, which still barred the way down the river, although all that portion below it had been opened after the capture of New Orleans. But it now seems that we were about to give up all the advantages we had gained, and allow the Confederates to obtain fresh strength by again yielding to them the most important part of the river, after we had so firmly secured it.
|Destruction of the ram Arkansas by the U. S. Gun-boat Essex, Commander Wm. D. Porter. (from a sketch by Rear-Admiral Walke.)|
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.